Building a Soup

The Three Opportunities: You can dictate the character of your soup by how you decide to start cooking it.
1. Bold and sturdy flavors come from starting the soup by fast-browning the onions and some of the vegetables in good tasting fat over medium-high heat.
2. Mellow flavors are achieved with slow-stewing onions and key ingredients, like herbs, in a little fat in a covered pot over low heat.
3. Clear, true flavors come from simmering everything in liquid with no pre-sautés.
Note: Wine is a powerful flavor booster because alcohol opens up flavors that neither fats nor water release. Also, red wine is high in umami, a chemical component of some foods which heightens flavors. So be generous with the wine. Use white wine in pale soups, red in dark ones, and anticipate 1/2 cup for every eight cups of liquid. Contrary to rumor, all the alcohol in wine and other spirits does not cook off.
A Basic Formula:
  • 2 parts onion
  • 1/2 part garlic
  • 2 parts members of cabbage family (cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, etc.)
  • 1/2 part carrot
  • 1/4 part celery with leaves
  • 1/2 part root vegetables (celery root, rutabaga, turnips, etc.)
  • 1 part leafy vegetables (salad greens, chard, kale, turnip greens, mizuna, dandelion, escarole, endive, collards, etc.)
  • 1 part dry white or red wine
  • Water as needed 

From The Splendid Table's How to Eat Supper by Lynne Rossetto Kasper and Sally Swift, Clarkson Potter, 2008.

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